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eBay to serve up pop-ups

The auction giant plans to test the ads over the next several weeks, the company notifies members via a posting on one of its announcements boards.

eBay plans to test out pop-up ads on its Web site, a move that could prove controversial with its members.

eBay will test the ads over the next several weeks, the company told members Thursday via a posting on one of its announcements boards. The ads will appear as visitors leave the company's home page and will direct them to merchandise on eBay or "other sites," the company said.

"We believe that, when properly used, this tool can help retain users who are flowing from eBay's home page out to the Internet," the company said in its note to members. "We will evaluate this new tool to determine its effect on buyer behavior and will use the information that we gather from this test to create better merchandising programs in the future."

eBay representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

Once largely confined to pornography Web sites, pop-up ads have become increasingly prevalent in recent years on mainstream Web sites such as those operated by New York Times Digital, MSNBC and Yahoo. Such sites began adopting the pop-up ads, as well as other, larger ad units as a result of the downturn in online advertising and the criticism of the effectiveness of banners ads. One variation on the pop-up ad is pop-under advertisements, which spontaneously appear in a new browser window behind a requested Web page.

The pop-up and pop-under ads have become so ubiquitous that they pushed the Web site for X10, a relatively unknown Web camera maker, into the ranks of the top trafficked sites last year. But many Net surfers find the ads annoying, and a number of companies have developed software designed specifically to block pop-up ads.

Earlier this year, Google attempted to paint itself as a consumer-friendly company by announcing that it would not accept any such ads on its site.

Not all visitors to eBay will see the new pop-up ads, the company said. And the company plans to limit the number of times any particular viewer will see a pop-up ad.

eBay began offering banner ads on its site in 2000 under an arrangement with AOL Time Warner, which sells the ad placements. Third-party advertising on eBay contributed 8 percent of the company's $245 million in net revenue in the first quarter of 2002, down from 13 percent of net revenue in the fourth quarter of 2001.

On Friday, eBay announced that it has renegotiated the commission it pays AOL on selling ad placements and shortened the length of the companies' agreement.